Dual task performance of working memory and postural control in major depressive disorder

Michail Doumas, Caroline Smolders, Els Brunfaut, Filip Bouckaert, Ralf T H Krampe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective: Previous studies with patients diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) revealed deficits in working memory and executive functions. In the present study we investigated whether patients with MDD have the ability to allocate cognitive resources in dual task performance of a highly challenging cognitive task (working memory) and a task that is seemingly automatic in nature (postural control). Method: Fifteen young (18–35 years old) patients with MDD and 24 healthy age-matched controls performed a working memory task and two postural control tasks (standing on a stable or on a moving platform) both separately (single task) and concurrently (dual task). Results: Postural stability under single task conditions was similar in the two groups, and in line with earlier studies, MDD patients recalled fewer working memory items than controls. To equate working memory challenges for patients and controls, task difficulty (number of items presented) in dual task was individually adjusted such that accuracy of working memory performance was similar for the two groups under single task conditions. Patients showed greater postural instability in dual task performance on the stable platform, and more importantly when posture task difficulty increased (moving platform) they showed deficits in both working memory accuracy and postural stability compared with healthy controls. Conclusions: We interpret our results as evidence for executive control deficits in MDD patients that affect their task coordination. In multitasking, these deficits affect not only cognitive but also sensorimotor task performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-8
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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